Vanderbilt and LSU are the favorites to win this week's Southeastern Conference tournament after mowing through regular-season play with uncommon ease.
The real intrigue, however, is the new single-elimination format in the opening round of the tournament.
Instead of the usual double-elimination format, the league's coaches say the sudden-death round was done because of scheduling and the expansion of the tournament field from 10 to 12 teams.
The top four seeds receive a bye to the second round, where double-elimination play begins.
Several teams with borderline NCAA tournament hopes will play crucial games during the opening knockout round, including Auburn and Texas A&M.
Play begins Tuesday morning at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Ala.
No. 1 seed Vanderbilt set an SEC record with 26 league wins this season.
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